Opinion | Trump Has Tamed the G.O.P. (for Now)
The president claimed the credit for Mr. Bishop’s success and for that of the Republican Greg Murphy, who won in North Carolina’s Third District. In his Thursday speech, Mr. Trump boasted that he’d rallied voters “like no one has ever seen.” He promised to do the same next year in dozens of House races. “I got a lot of energy!” he said.
Again and again, he hit the same note: Stick by me, and there will be so much winning.
Wary of intraparty drama that could complicate the president’s re-election, his campaign team has been working for months to smooth the way. In four states, Republicans are canceling their presidential primaries and caucuses. While not unprecedented, the move is seen as part of a broader attempt to choke off any primary challenges. Mr. Trump currently has three Republican challengers — all extreme long shots.
“Donald Trump is doing his best to make the Republican Party his own personal club,” complained one of the contenders, Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts. “It’s something a mob boss would do,” said another, former Representative Joe Walsh.
Every president appropriates his party’s election apparatus for his own ends, but the Trump team is absorbing the infrastructure entirely. In December, the campaign made public that it was formally merging key operations with the Republican National Committee to create a single entity, called Trump Victory. A primary goal, Politico reported at the time, was to limit staff overlap “and the kind of infighting that marked the 2016 relationship between the Trump campaign and the party.”
Advisers have also been working overtime to make sure there is no whiff of dissent at next summer’s nominating convention, as there was in 2016.
This streamlining comes with risks — at least for those not named Trump. This week, an investigation by ProPublica revealed that the R.N.C. has been withholding data from down-ballot candidates about how voters in particular states and districts view the president. Why? Party insiders suggested it was to prevent candidates in places where Mr. Trump isn’t especially popular from attempting to distance themselves from him or from leaking data that could embarrass him. This could complicate the strategies of Republicans running in tough swing districts.
Michael Steele, the R.N.C.’s former chairman and a Trump critic, told ProPublica the committee no longer asks candidates, “What do you need?” The question, he said, is, “Do you support Donald Trump?”
Though he dominates his party today, this question clearly continues to gnaw at the president.